Monday, November 11, 2013

Yolanda Can Allow Only So Much Preparation, and Luck, but Has Anyone in PAGASA Warned of the Possibility of Storm Surge?

My family in Calbayog City, Samar, like most, braced itself for Yolanda’s landfall Friday. Early in the afternoon, although power had gone out, my family shared with me a rather good news. Apparently, Yolanda had veered a little off its forecast path, missing Calbayog enough to spare it from complete destruction.
The mood was celebratory and grateful. The city had once again escaped a looming catastrophe, and as always, they turned to thank God for His protection.
A hundred kilometers or so away, the story was different, but it would not be known until Sunday morning, or two days after super typhoon Yolanda made multiple landfalls and pummeled the neighboring main island of Leyte, particularly Tacloban City, which bore the brunt of its wrath. Other cities, municipalities, that sustained heavy damages were Ormoc City, Baybay Leyte, Basey, and Guian in Eastern Samar, and many more.
In the evening, news of a few dead found littering the streets of Tacloban city had graced social networking sites like facebook and twitter. By Saturday, a hundred more corpses were reported seen on the streets, as stories and short video footages of what appeared at first like flooding, later on clarified as storm surge, had circulated in the papers and social networking sites.
By then, national government officials had reached Tacloban, and had a firsthand opportunity to assess the devastation. One described it as overwhelming, another, cataclysmic, yet another, horrific. The Philippine Red Cross had tried its hunch on the number of casualties placing it at a little over a thousand. This figure had started to get netizens’ attention. Some questioned the veracity of the numbers, having dramatically risen from a few, to a hundred, and now over a thousand.
On Sunday, papers and internet newswires printed what the public was not prepared to hear and read. The news’ numbers have absolutely taken a wild turn, now placing the estimate of the dead at over ten thousand in Tacloban City alone. Accentuating the news were gory pictures of dead bodies piling up everywhere amidst the rubbles stupefying the public,  which had to shake its head trying to make sense of all that was unfolding –faster than it was ready to take.
What was earlier celebratory mood in Calbayog had turned to eerie silence and anxiety. Many of Calbayog’s youth go to Universities in Tacloban City. Many inhabitants of Calbayog have their roots and families in Leyte. After a moment of shock, parents and family took to action. They had to go to Tacloban to find out how their loved ones were, with communications wholly inoperable. It would prove to be very difficult with roads made impassable by fallen trees electrical posts, and the tons of mixed debris, including corpses and carcasses, that had washed along the storm surge –has PAGASA alerted the public of its danger?
My sister, Yvette, and her husband, Carl, who went to Tacloban yesterday taking with them their kids, perhaps not knowing the enormity of the situation, being isolated from news, had to spent hours trying to get in Tacloban and longer trying to get out to make her way to Calbayog tugging along with them Carl’ mother, Ruth, and brother, Abe.
My other brother-in-law, Bong, has braved the odds, too, driving to Tacloban with some friends to look for Hannah, his niece, who went to school in a University, and to check on Yvette and Carl, who all, until early this evening, have not been heard from.  
As of this writing Yvette and Carl are still negotiating their way out of Tacloban amid long line of traffic. It is exodus that is necessary. Those who have family outside of Tacloban and can move out, had better leave. There is hardly any food and water, and the situation is becoming more desperate by the day.
While relief goods have started to fly in aboard the government’s C130, and peace and order being reined in with the deployment of over a hundred Special Action Forces contingents of the PNP and soldiers of the AFP, there is just too many mouths to feed to strain any inventory even with a steady flow of supplies, at least in the days, weeks, or months to come until Tacloban’s own industries return to operations.
Leaving Tacloban, in the meantime, when you can, will give space for emergency and rescue personnel, psychologist, and the like so that the urgent needs of the survivors are attended to while they still matter. Let us remember that like, if not more than, hunger, physical pains and wounds, emotional trauma needs timely arrest if the victim is to be repaired.
Let us give and do all we can. Let us volunteer. Let us make our brothers and sisters in Tacloban and other areas devastated by Yolanda that we are one with them, and that we are committed to helping them rebuild their cities and their lives.  

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